Cesar Perez-Gonzalez of Germantown won a spot on “Jeopardy!” with the help of his daughter’s toy, some books and hours spent on Wikipedia.
Perez-Gonzalez, a physician who works at the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute, said he has watched “Jeopardy!” since he was a child. When he was a teenager, his mother encouraged him to try out, but he was reluctant.
Years later, when “Jeopardy!” contestant Ken Jennings was in the middle of his record-winning streak, Perez-Gonzalez decided it was time to give it a try.
Almost a year and a half after trying out with other Washington, D.C.-area contestants in Cleveland, he was sitting at home when a “Jeopardy!” producer called. Perez-Gonzalez was one of the thousands of government workers furloughed that week.
“I wish they had called me sooner, because I really would have spent that time studying!” he said.
He said he used his daughter’s ring stack toy, which had a button on top, as a practice buzzer while watching “Jeopardy!” at home.
But in Los Angeles during the taping of the show, Perez-Gonzalez learned the famed buzzers were not that simple.
“I ran into some very tough opponents that were a lot faster on the buzzer than I was,” he said. “You have to time things just right.”
During the show, host Alex Trebek asks the contestants to tell a short, interesting story about themselves. Perez-Gonzales told one about his wife.
Before he proposed to her, they agreed that she would pick out her own ring. She did, and Perez-Gonzales then went to his future mother-in-law to ask for her blessing.
“Of course, her mother gave her blessing, and then she goes, ‘I have the perfect ring for her,’” he said. His mother-in-law showed him a ring that had been passed down through his wife’s grandmother and mother.
“I knew it wasn’t the right type of ring for her, but my mother-in-law was insistent,” he said.
When he proposed, he decided to pull out both rings and let his wife decide.
As “Jeopardy!” was being taped and Perez-Gonzalez told his story, Trebek asked: “Which one did she pick?”
“I’ll have to tell you the same thing I told Alex Trebek — I’ll never tell,” he said.
Perez-Gonzales won $1,000 after finishing in third place on the show.